If Zimbabwe holds an outsize place in the British psyche, the UK must make sure it uses its relationship with the country to encourage democratic changeby Alex Vines / November 23, 2017 / Leave a comment
Suddenly is it back to the future in Zimbabwe. The military made their decisive clinical move in the early hours on 15 November to stop quickening plans for dynastic succession from the then 93-year old President, Robert Mugabe to his wife, Grace. As several military officials observed dryly, “leadership in Zimbabwe is not sexually transmitted.”
Comrade Robert Mugabe struggled to extend his presidency with plenty of twists and turns but finally almost a week later, we found had negotiated a soft landing exit deal with the military and resigned after 37-years in power to avoid the indignity of impeachment. The recently returned to Zimbabwe Emerson Mnangagwa will be sworn in on Friday (24 November) as Zimbabwe’s third president and has already promised a ‘new democracy’ and policy focus on turning around Zimbabwe’s almost collapsed economy.
Every twist and turn in Zimbabwe had been closely covered by the British media. It was a valuable reminder that still, Zimbabwe is a British fixation.
No other African country during my professional career has attracted such emotion and attention in Britain as Zimbabwe. Indeed, we need sometimes to remind ourselves that Zimbabwe is not economically or politically strategic to the UK. Zimbabwe’s diaspora in the UK is 200,000—and 20,000 increasingly elderly British passport holders reside in Zimbabwe. Yet this middle sized, landlocked southern African country—that has suffered from acute poor leadership—holds an outsize place in the British psyche.